On Monday morning, thousands of dove hunters from all over the state will be out in the field in pursuit of the most sought after game birds in the state, doves.
The first dove season will give sportsmen 15 days of opportunity to bag three species of doves that are found in Arizona.
Hunters can take mourning doves, whitewing doves and the non-native Eurasian collared doves.
The daily bag limit is 10 doves, of which no more than six can be whitewings. After opening day, the limit is 20 doves, of which no more than 12 can be whitewings.
There is no bag limit or possession limit on Eurasian collared doves.
Before you head to the field, all hunters over the age of 16 must have affixed to their license an Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp that is required under the Harvest Information Program.
The stamp costs $4.50 and can be picked up at any regional office or at any license dealer.
Hunters should be aware that shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset in the North Zone, which encompasses Game Management Units 1 through 15C, 16A, 17 through 20A, 23 and 24A.
Hunters in the South Zone, Units 15D, 16B, 20B, 20C, 21, 22, and 24B through 46 have legal shooting hours from one-half hour before sunrise until noon.
Legal method of take for doves include shotguns shooting shot, bow and arrow, crossbow or by falconry.
Hunters cannot use shotguns that hold more than three shells, including two in the magazine.
Single shot, double barrel, pump and semi-automatic shotguns are legal for sportsmen to use.
Hunters locally will find that most of the whitewing doves will have moved south prior to the opening of the season, as they seek nighttime temperatures that are above 70 degrees.
Local hunters who choose to hunt in Mohave Valley may still find whitewings in agricultural areas, as they are attracted to grain fields.
Going out and doing a little pre-season scouting can pay big dividends on opening day for hunters.
Since the season doesn't open until Monday, hunters can scout this weekend to locate an opening day hot spot.
Hunters should also be aware that Eurasian collared doves closely resemble the mourning dove in color, though the Eurasian dove is larger in size. Eurasian doves are most commonly found in or near residential areas, while mourning doves and whitewing doves are found in and around riparian areas in the desert.
Doves in rural areas will generally start flying toward the nearest water source as the desert floor heats up. Action can, and often does, get fast and furious.
Hunters who hunt around stock tanks in the desert should allow plenty of space between themselves and other shooters. Remember that shot can travel a long ways and that hunters should always be sure of their targets and beyond.
Getting sprayed with lead doesn't make fellow hunters happy, and I strongly recommend that everyone wear shooting glasses to protect themselves from falling shot during the dove season when hunters are concentrated around waters.
Here are a few more pointers:
A feathered wing must be left on all birds that are cleaned in the field so that law enforcement officers can identify the species.
Don't clean your birds around water sources such as concrete drinkers, as feathers can and will plug up float valves.
If you see cattle coming in to water, don't shoot around them and cause them to panic. Good relations with landowners and lessees are important to all sportsmen.
A good way to sharpen your shooting eye before the season opens is to go out to the Mohave Sportsman Club's 7 Mile Hill Range this weekend. The club has both a trap and skeet range that is open to the public, and shooting a few rounds of trap and skeet will help you when you're in the field
Arizona has a second dove season that starts on Nov. 21 and ends on Jan. 4. Only mourning doves are legal during that time, though Eurasian Collared doves can also be taken during this time since there is no limit and a year-around season on these feral exotic birds.